Thursday, April 27, 2000

Owner of house scoffs at Lebanon offer

He says parking needs exceed appraised value

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — The city has decided to offer $81,500 to save what's thought to be its oldest building, but the owner called the offer unacceptable Wednesday.

        City Council voted 5-1 late Tuesday to try to buy the house at 27 N. Mechanic St. from businessman John McComb. Amy Brewer voted against the measure, and James Reinhard did not vote because of a conflict of interest.

Badly damaged
        “If we're going to have a historical town, we've got to stop tearing down historical buildings,” Mayor James Mills said Wednesday.

        The Federal-style house was probably built by the Shakers in 1807 or 1808, according to the Lebanon Conservancy Foundation. It was badly damaged in a November fire, and Mr. McComb planned to tear it down and expand the parking lot there for his nearby property investment business, Combco.

        A week before Mr. McComb's promise to hold off on demolition expired, City Council voted April 11 to get the property appraised with a view to buying it through eminent domain.

Over $150,000?
        Council members arrived at their offer by averaging several appraisals they received.

        But Mr. McComb said the value of the house and the price he paid for it — $75,000 — are irrelevant. If the city takes the property, he said, he will lose parking he had been renting at the site as well as the parking he'd planned to add.

        “I cannot replace my parking for my business for $81,000,” he said.

        If — as seems probable — the city and Mr. McComb cannot agree on a price, the courts will set it. He suggested it likely would be more than $150,000.

        Not everyone agrees City Council should continue pursuing the house, however. Mr. Reinhard said that once the courts rule, the city cannot back out of buying it regardless of how high a price is set.

        “If they go forward with that, they should all lose their jobs,” said Mr. Reinhard, Mr. McComb's brother-in-law. “I could see that building, if they continue along this path, costing a quarter or half a million dollars. It's absolutely crazy.”

        If the building is purchased, it will have to be repaired and restored — possibly for use as offices or a museum. Initial estimates range from $100,000 for the original half of the house to almost $300,000 for the whole house.


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